Thanks to some graduations to the big league club, the Atlanta Braves have a severely weakened minor league system heading into 2014. While the top two or three have All-Star type potential there are a lot of guys towards the middle and back of the Top 15 who project to be borderline major leaguers. Chris Headrick at Tomahawk Take was instrumental in putting together this list and provided me with outstanding comments on each of the players which I’m passing along to you with little of my own commentary.
Triple-A: Gwinnett Braves (International League)
Double-A: Mississippi Braves (Southern League)
High-A: Lynchburg Hillcats (Carolina League)
Class-A: Rome Braves (South Atlantic League)
Advanced-Rookie: Danville Braves (Appalachian League)
Complex-Rookie: GCL Braves (Gulf Coast League)
Kyle Kubitza – 3B
Date of Birth: July 15, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’3″/190 lbs
Acquired: 3rd round of the 2011 draft
Analysis: Chris says: “Kyle has a good feel for the strike zone, and has shown maturity at waiting for the pitch he wants. That said, Kyle has also shown some problems with striking out a touch too much when his swing gets a little long. Kyle has good power though, and as coaches work with him to shorten his swing, he should continue to improve.”
Kubitza also had a great season in the Arizona Fall League, showing off his very good gap power, contact skills and eye at the plate with a .305/.380/.434 line in 59 at bats.
2014 Prognosis: A step up to Double-A should be a good challenge for Kubitza.
Carlos Salazar – RHP
Date of Birth: November 23, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’/200 lbs
Acquired: 3rd round of the 2013 draft
Analysis: Chris says: “Anytime a high school player throws the kind of heat Salazar does, scouts take notice and Carlos can set the radar guns on fire, topping out at 97 mph! On top of that he also has an above average breaking ball for one as young as he is. Scouts say that he has good movement to the plate, but tends to fly open too much at times, causing pitches to sail high. Control is currently Salazar’s biggest issue, but that can be normal for an 18 year old, and with continued work, his mechanics will likely improve over time for better command.”
2014 Prognosis: Salazar might stay back in Rookie Ball for another year and try to figure out why he was hit so hard. I see him either in Danville or back in the GCL.
Shae Simmons – RHP
Date of Birth: September 3, 1990
Height/Weight: 5’9″/180 lbs
Acquired: 22nd round of the 2012 draft
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Analysis: Chris says: “Simmons is not very big, but has a good deal of power nonetheless. Most scouts believe Shae will end up a closer because of his ability to throw his heater at around 96 mph. That coupled together with a hard slider, and an above average changeup, and fans should keep an eye out for Shae Simmons.”
Simmons had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League despite some control issues (walking seven in 10 innings).
2014 Prognosis: Simmons will start in Double-A Mississippi and the club will see how he progresses there.
Luis Merejo – LHP
Date of Birth: October 8, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’/175 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2011; $65,000 signing bonus
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Analysis: Chris says: “Scouts found Merejo on the international front and were impressed. Most people would be when you find a young player able to throw a 94 mph fastball when he was just 17. Even better than his heater though is an above average curve and change. Merejo once struck out 53 hitters in only 41 rookie-ball innings, so the young pitcher has got some stuff.”
2014 Prognosis: A bargain in the international free agent pool, Merejo will look to get his career back on track after some injury issues in 2013. Look for him in Danville.
Victor Caratini – 3B
Date of Birth: August 17, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’/205 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2013 draft
Analysis: Chris says: “Scouts always take notice of a switch hitter and when you find one who has pretty good discipline from either side of the plate, you look even closer. Caratini was a catcher by trade, but has played quite a bit of 3B by necessity as well. Wherever he ends up, his defense is very good and he has the chops offensively as well.”
2014 Prognosis: He should step up to full-season ball in Rome.